There are several water towns near Shanghai, namely Qibao, Xitang, Wuzen, Zhouzhuang, Tongli but I choose to visit Zhujiajiao Ancient Water Town during my recent trip to Shanghai. It was really an unplanned daytrip from Shanghai, but I glad we made it. It was one of the highlight for our trip to Shanghai. To me, Zhujiajiao has all a water town can offer — bridges, water canals, local eateries, art shops, hand crafts and even coffee houses.
The Zhujiajiao Water Town is about 1 hour from Shanghai. There’s no direct train to this area, and the cheapest way is to get the local bus from the Southern side of People’s square at the Puan Road, which costs us 12yuan per person, although buses are quite local and if you don’t know Chinese, can be a pain to find. We had difficult time finding the bus station and ended walking round and round trying find it. From the Zhujiajiao bus station, it is a 10 min walk to Zhujiajiao itself. There’s no clear direction from the bus station to the water town area, but luckily we found a nice local that can speak english to show us the direction. You will pass through few streets at the center town before you reached the ancient water town area.
This ancient little water town has become quite touristy but the atmosphere was pleasant. I can still feel the the charm of the old ways in the tiny shops, narrow sidewalks and the picturesque stone and wooden bridges over the canals with slow hand-pulled boats with tourists. Most of the outlets are restaurants, cafes or souvenir shops, and in between are a few galleries and other touristy sites. It’s geared mainly for domestic tourists although there is an English map and signs. It is probably worth it for the experience of Chinese tourism, however don’t expect tranquil scenic rural slice of life during the day. I really enjoyed myself walking at the small canal area. After walking around in crowded Shanghai, it makes a refreshing change to be in a town with no traffic!
Some of the shops really sell good and cheap stuff. You may want to spent some time to browse through the shop because you might be surprised with what you can find. My favorite is the leather shop by a small canal which sell quite cheap leather product. I also did my name carved on the traditional chinese chop and also a painting of my name. It was very cheap and nice !!. There also lots of ‘local’ food, although you need to be adventurous to try some of these foods. Yeah…. bad news for muslims friends, no halal restaurant at this area. However, you can bring your packed food and have a nice picnic by the canal like what we did here.. There’s a lot of benches and sitting area along the canal that you can utilize.
There is a tourist information centre, where you can buy tickets, a 80RMB ticket gets you admission to all the attractions, plus a short boat trip, although most of the town is easily walkable. You do not have to buy a ticket if you just choose to walk around. Some of the places you needed to pay to get in, but I think walking around the old town is enough. There is no traffic in the town, which is a blessing. We spent quite some time there, and headed out around 4, worried about bus scheduling.
Oh ya, beware of the bus that you take. Make sure you boarded the express non-stop bus to Shanghai or vice-versa. We took the wrong return bus and it turn out to be the normal bus to Shanghai. And it took us almost 2hour journey. It was really an uncomfortable ride, with the bus really full with people and stop at every 10minutes ride.